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20 Good Character Traits Essential For Happiness

“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature. His affections were tender and warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.”

“Such a nature was admirably constituted to direct an heroic struggle on the part of a people proud enough to prefer a guide to a leader, a man commissioned to execute the popular will but, as in his case, strong enough to enforce his own.”

If you haven't guessed yet, these good traits were written about the character of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln was a role model for integrity and honesty. He offers us so many examples of good character traits. These good qualities stayed with Lincoln throughout the trials and tribulations of leading a country during one of the worst periods of its history.

Of course, Lincoln was president during the 19th century when the character of a person was a highly-regarded quality.

What is Good Character?

When a person possesses good character it can be observed through their actions. It's not limited to a single value but the traits are demonstrated in the “good” choices they make and the “bad” choices they avoid.

According to historian Warren Susman in his book Culture as History, the use of the phrase “good character” peaked in the 19th century. “Character was a keyword in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,” says Susman, and so important to society that it was promoted as an essential component of one's identity.

Things began to change in the 20th century, as we transitioned from a producing to a consuming society. Emphasis shifted from a focus on virtue and good character to a focus on self and material possessions.

Says Susman, “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization.”

It became more important to cultivate personality traits, influence, and outer perceptions than to develop nobility of heart, mind, and deed. Abraham Lincoln likely would never be elected president today.

Is developing personal character traits an outdated, useless pursuit that has little relevance in modern society?

If you look at many of today's role models as good character examples(the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, sports celebrities), it would seem so. Who has time for a boring personality type which gets in the way of an egocentric life?

However, it doesn't take much experience to discover how essential good character traits are when it comes to one's self-esteem, relationships, and life satisfaction.


Related: Big Five Personality Traits


Individual character is the linchpin for a healthy, functioning society. Although it may not be a popular pursuit, developing these important character traits is one of the most satisfying, emotionally intelligent endeavors you'll ever undertake.

Good character consists of defining your values and integrity based on time-tested principles and self-reflection and having the courage to live your life accordingly.

So how do you begin to improve your character?

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Let's look at 20 good character traits that impact your happiness.

I invite you to look over this character traits list and pick at least one that you begin working on:

1. Integrity

Integrity is a character trait that has strong moral principles and core values and then conducting your life with those as your guide. When you have integrity, you main your adherence to it whether or not other people are watching.

2. Honesty

Honesty is a character trait that is more than telling the truth. It's living the truth. It is being straightforward and trustworthy in all of your interactions, relationships, and thoughts. Being honest requires self-honesty and authenticity.

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3. Loyalty

Loyalty is a character trait of faithfulness and devotion to your loved ones, your friends, and anyone with whom you have a trusted relationship. Loyalty can also extend to your employer, the organizations you belong to, your community, and your country.

4. Respectfulness

With this character trait you treat yourself and others with courtesy, kindness, deference, dignity, and civility. You offer basic respect as a sign of your value for the worth of all people and your ability to accept the inherent flaws we all possess.

5. Responsibility

You accept personal, relational, career, community, and societal obligations even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. This character trait follows through on commitments and proactively create or accept accountability for your behavior and choices.infographic list of good character traits

6. Humility

You have a confident yet modest opinion of your own self-importance. You don't see yourself as “too good” for other people or situations. With this character trait you have a learning and growth mindset and the desire to express and experience gratitude for what you have, rather than expecting you deserve more.

7. Compassion

This character traits example feels deep sympathy and pity for the suffering and misfortune of others, and you have a desire to do something to alleviate their suffering.

8. Fairness

Using discernment, compassion, and integrity, this a character trait strives to make decisions and take actions based on what you consider the ultimate best course or outcome for all involved.

Related: The Ultimate List Of Life Goals To Achieve

9. Forgiveness

You make conscious, intentional decisions to let go of resentment and anger toward someone for an offense — whether or not forgiveness is sought by the offender. Forgiveness may or may not include pardoning, restoration, or reconciliation. It extends both to others and to one's self.

10. Authenticity

With this a character trait you are able to be your real and true self, without pretension, posturing, or insincerity. You are capable of showing appropriate vulnerability and self-awareness.

11. Courageousness

In spite of fear of danger, discomfort, or pain, you have the mental fortitude to carry on with a commitment, plan, or decision, knowing it is the right or best course of action.

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12. Generosity

This willing to offer your time, energy, efforts, emotions, words, or assets without the expectation of something in return. This character trait offers these freely and often joyously.


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13. Perseverance

Perseverance is a character trait steadfast persistence and determination to continue on with a course of action, belief, or purpose, even if it's difficult or uncomfortable in order to reach a higher goal or outcome.

14. Politeness

This character trait is knowledgeable of basic good manners, common courtesies, and etiquette, and are willing to apply those to all people you encounter. You desire to learn the personal skills of politeness in order to enhance your relationships and self-esteem

good-character-traits15. Kindness

Kindness is a positive character trait of being considerate, helpful, and benevolent to others. This character trait is motivated by a positive disposition and the desire for warm and pleasant interactions.

16. Lovingness

This character trait has the ability to be loving toward those you love means showing them through your words, actions, and expressions how deeply you care about them. It includes the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

17. Optimism

Optimism is character trait example of having a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future. It involves a positive mental attitude in which you interpret life events, people, and situations in a promising light.

18. Reliability

This character trait can be consistently depended upon to follow through on your commitments, actions, and decisions. You do what you say you will do.

Related: 31 Good Mottos To Live By

19. Conscientiousness

This character trait has the desire to do things well or to the best of your ability. You are thorough, careful, efficient, organized, and vigilant in your efforts, based on your own principles or sense of what is right.

20. Self-discipline

You are able, through good habits or willpower, to overcome your desires or feelings in order to follow the best course of action or to rise to your commitments or principles. You have a strong sense of self-control in order to reach a desired goal.

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Developing these traits of good character can be difficult to foster and maintain, but they afford so many positive benefits to improve the quality of your life.

How to build good character traits

If you believe developing these positive characteristics, here are some action steps to show you how.

Define your core values

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Know what is most important to you by determining your values for your professional and personal life. These are the principles that are the foundation for your priorities, choices, actions, and behaviors. You can start by looking at this list of values.

Practice the habits

Pick one or two from this list of character traits above to practice for several weeks. Write down the actions you want to take or the behaviors you define that reflect this trait, and implement them in your daily life and interactions. Wear a rubber band on your wrist or create other reminders to help you practice.


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Find people with good character

Surround yourself with people who reflect the character traits you want to embrace. They will inspire and motivate you to build these traits in yourself. Try to avoid people who have a weak character and make bad decisions.

Take some risks

Start taking small actions toward a goal or value that involve some level of risk. When you face the possibility of failure and challenge yourself toward success, you become mentally and emotionally stronger and more committed to your principles.

Do you practice this list of good character traits? Click To Tweet

Stretch yourself

Create high standards and big goals for yourself. Expect the best of yourself and constantly work toward that, even though you will have setbacks and occasional failures. Every stretch builds your confidence and knowledge that your positive character traits are getting stronger.

Commit to self-improvement

Realize that building your character is a life-long endeavor. It is something that is practiced both in the minutiae and the defining moments of your life. There will be times you step up to the character traits you embrace and other times you falter.

By remaining committed to personal growth and learning about yourself, your character will naturally improve, even through the failures.

Did you find any value from this character traits list?

What do you consider to be the most important and valuable character traits? How do you reflect these traits in your daily life both at work and in your personal life? I hope you'll use these traits to help you stay anchored to being your best self.

Would you like to strengthen friends and family?

It would be really great if you could help me spread these good character traits to others. Would you be willing to send out some love to other people you know?  Please share this list of traits on your preferred social media platform.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 15 comments
  • Lisa Barrett

    Couldn’t agree with this feature more! I’ve always taught these core values to my children and tried to follow them myself. I’m sick and tired of the way so many people admire wealth and fame over a good heart and honest living. If we all were a little kinder and forgiving instead of greedy and selfish, the world would be such a better place. x

    Reply
  • Sarah

    I love this. It’s such a good reminder of what I need to work on, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to feel gratitude for the traits I naturally possess. That’s a beautiful quote by Seneca, as well. Always love these roundups, Barrie!

    Reply
  • Niro Thambipillay

    A great article Barrie! External possessions can be whisked away in an instant but our character is internal. It’s ours and it can never be taken away from us. If we focus on our character, our reputation will take care of itself. But if we focus on our reputation and what others think of us, our character will always be called into question… and we can never be truly happy. The challenges we face in life on a constant basis are often opportunities for us to build our character – hence the term “character building”, something that has gone out of fashion in today’s quick fix world but something that is crucial to long term happiness. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  • HULDAROWA

    Thanks Barrie, excellent work, I think it really help us. Thanks again for caring so much

    Reply
  • Aparna

    Thanks Barrie for every article. I look forward for your articles.

    Reply
  • lynne

    I’ve always loved reading your articles, very informative and inspiring, Character is what defines a person, having a good character gains respect more than anything else. Thanks for sharing. Great Post!

    Reply
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    […] ~A few enjoyable posts to improve your or someone else’s day –  How to Brighten Someone’s Day or 20 Good Character Traits to Cultivate Happiness […]

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  • Sherill

    I definitely agree that these 20 character traits are what we should strive to become. My favorites are integrity, honesty and humility. These are the traits I look for in people. Our moral values are what makes us and living a life with integrity, honesty and humility can never go wrong. We will not only achieve success but happiness as well.

    Reply
  • Cody Mann

    That was a great list of traits you must have. I couldn’t agree more with the points that you talked about, however. Fortunately when you begin practicing one or two of those things on a consistent basis the rest will usually follow in a domino effect-like fashion. If all of us practiced these things on a daily basis this world would be a much better place.

    Reply
  • List Of Personality Traits

    […] them understand us better. It can also improve the way we work and learn, as we know more about our natural traits and how we can work with them rather than against […]

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  • shadae

    Well done to this article I have learned a lot based and what I have read and will pratice them in my daily life.

    Reply
  • Dwight

    Really enjoyed reading this article. Can’t wait to put this insightful knowledge to good use. Thank You

    Reply
  • Damilare

    I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THIS ARTICLE, I HAVE FAILED IN MOST OF THE TRAITS BUT I AM NOT GIVING UP BECOS I KNOW GOD HONORS A HONEST HEART THAT WANT TO PRESERVE THAN PERFECTION. THE GOAL IS BEING PERFECT, A RIGHTEOUS MAN FALL 7X BUT EACH TIME PICK HIM SELF BACK UP, THAT’S THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL AND UNSUCCESSFUL.

    Reply
  • Julie

    This list is going to come in handy. I am going to use it to help my daughter realize that reconciling with her ex husband is not a good decision. The man plotted for six months to abandon her and their one year old daughter. He put ‘his’ house on the market, had her find an apartment, moved the essentials into the apartment and claimed that the rest were going into storage until they found another place. The evening before my daughter, granddaughter , and I were returning from our beach vacation, he called her to say he had moved into another place, leaving her with unpacked boxes, no income, and emotionally distraught.. His reason was that she was spending all her time with the baby makng him feel like a non-entity. It’s been a year and a half since this happened and memories fade. Our whole family realizes that it’s ultimately her decision but we want to guide her to seeing the type of person he is not and that she deserves better.

    Reply
  • yanga

    You know this information is needed for our children as they grow so that they can change our country or develop it with respect. It may help a lot if it can be a core subject. Our cultural identity can get to a higher standard.

    Reply
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